The Wrong Mantra

The Wrong Mantra April 13, 2015

I’ve spoken before about how challenging meditation has been for me. Part of me wants to still my mind but the mind hates that! What a lot of meditation resources leave out is the fact that it is really hard work. Stilling the mind, ceasing thoughts for even a single moment, is enormously challenging.

If you’re trying meditation you should know that it isn’t easy. But you should also know that there are things that could make it a little easier. Such as practicing a style of meditation that speaks to you.

For me my experience of meditation changed enormously when I stopped using the mantra I was initiated with (TM-style). I had never really connected to it. It was the mantra that we all used in SES. I had longed to know the secret magic word for years but when I finally got it, it was a let down. The mantra was a single syllable, which I found difficult. My brain would trip over it. My issues with the mantra caused me to give up completely on meditation.

A few weeks before we went to India this most recent time I started trying a new mantra. I wasn’t initiated with it. I wasn’t given it. But I just started meditating on Om Namah Shivaya.

It was a completely different experience. The rhythm of it worked for me, I feel more connected to Shiva than my Rama-based previous mantra. It just really clicked. This didn’t make meditation easy, but it made it enjoyable. It’s still hard for me to sit down and actually do it like I know I should, but when I do it feels good. While in India I found the mantra “stuck in my head” like a song. It was almost continuously in the background of everything I did.

For the first time I really felt and understood the value in meditation and I really do think it is the key to everything.

In India I was surprised to discover that Shiva is the primary God of my Advaita Guru. And I also found out that the people in my parents’ group had gotten a new mantra too. It was also Shiva-based!

And though I haven’t updated the book club for a while, the next section of Eat Pray Love, Gilbert talks about how challenging her mantra is. It doesn’t seem to fit the rhythm of her breath. It doesn’t flow. Know what her mantra is? Om Namah Shivaya! Really goes to show that different things work for different people.


On a different subject, I missed the Holi celebration. Because we have such bad weather around Holi time, the temple that puts on the event had it April 10 and 11. I was signed up to go yesterday, Sunday the 11th. I could have done it too. I wasn’t scheduled to work until the evening. But with coming back from the trip to MA, I just forgot that was this weekend.

I saw a girl in the grocery store covered in color and that’s when I remembered. Far too late.

I feel quite down about this. In the last seven years I don’t think I have ever missed celebrating Holi. I’ve done it in California and Arkansas and Maryland. It’s hardly the most important holiday but I really enjoy it and I’m very sad that I missed it.

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    Mantras are only used in the beginning. When you have crossed over this threshold you will automatically hear it from your heart. Keep practicing and you will get there one day. 🙂

  • Jeramy Hansen

    I’ve never done TM, but in my experiences with Taoist meditation practices, I could see where having an incorrect focus could entirely disrupt the experience.

    I’m glad you found something that works better for you!

  • Namaskār Ambaa,

    I would like to understand better this post. When you say to still your mind, does this include not only speech (or the inner voice) you hear in your head, but also sounds, music, flashes of images or even “video footage” that you can play back in your head? I hear from other people who have done meditation that the most difficult part is getting the mind to stop the self-talk. Is this what you are referring to? I have the opposite issue sometimes. I spend so much time by myself, and the voiceless state is my natural state, so it takes effort for me to get the voice going, and one way to do that is for me to read.

    When you say that the mantra made it work for you, or that it stuck like a song in your head, what do you mean by this? That the words make better sense, or that there is a musical rhythm of the chant that works better for you, or both? What I would like to say here is that if this is what you mean, then I have practiced a language-less mantra practice for most of my life.

    See, as you recall my history as a deaf child and the development of the Ancient perspective as a result, I had a practice of humming rhythmically that connected me somehow to something unexplainable. I will say that many times, humming rhythmically in particular rhythms made me feel about particular people and maybe situations they were in, like one now (not humming these days, but playing didgeridoo) is about a particular bollywood actor in a particular movie or two because of his well-developed personality as a caring person, a teacher who has an insight into a particular learning disability of a student. It could be a particular pitch-ranging (a beginning pitch, an intermittent high pitch of the rhythm, and an ending pitch) of the voice, the rhythm of the pitch-ranging, and the speed of said rhythm. I had to hide this from people, because while I did it in isolation, I NEVER saw anyone else do it around me, nor had I heard anyone talk about it. I felt very compelled to do it from the earliest age that I can remember. One time, as a teenager, I was caught by my stepmother, and I was berated for doing something only a baby would do. She didn’t even try to ask me why I did it. I did this until I was about 38, and then stopped under the mistaken notion that I had finally “outgrown” it.

    Fast forward to 3 years ago, when for some reason, I became interested in the didgeridoo. Suddenly, without realizing it at first, I reconnected with the old practice of the Ancient mantra, only through a different medium. I’m fairly good at it, having learned circular breathing early in the learning process. This video is an example of what I do. The more rhythmic stuff is not what I’m referring to, but the parts where I continuously drone in a changing overtone pattern without a break in the droning. THAT is what I’m referring to:

    I know what you mean about the Holi event. I’ve been wanting to go, and DANG IT! I missed it again! I was too far away from a mandir, and I had to work that day, prepping the faire for the opening of the season.

    • Ambaa

      Sorry it took me a few days to respond, Disqus has been having trouble, at least on my computer!

      The goal of the meditation that I practice is to still the mind completely. No images, no sounds, total stillness. The mantra is a vibration but its sound is only meant to carry us into the total stillness and eventually it too fades away.

      That’s very advanced work. Most of us can only hope to have flashes of total rest in between gently moving the mind away from thoughts and images.

      In India the mantra was just always there. It seemed to sync up with the vibration of the air around me.

  • David Cowan

    Hi amba, I completely understand your struggle with a mantra. I had problems with my Buddhist mantra until I had dharshan with a avatar. The mantra started working then. Now I do I mantra to Rama but I have done it before in my past lives so it works every so often. I recommend visiting an avatar. Jai ram

  • J N

    One very important aspect of tantra should now be borne in mind, that is mantra. Tantra is mantra and mantra is tantra. Without mantra there could be no tantra. Tantra means a process of expansion and liberation. Mantra means a process of contemplation and liberation.

    Mantras are not the names of gods and goddesses, they are the sounds, the words, the vibrations put into a particular pattern, and they are more subtle than the actual physical waves. They are more subtle than any kind of wave that we know in science today. Mantra has no limitations; mind is the basis of mantra and the mantra can be launched through the mind. The main mantra, that of the supreme, is aum. It is the primal mantra, the first seed of creation.

    • Ambaa

      I know very little about tantra. Thank you for this insight!

  • Seeker

    I was recently given the chant of Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya by the Spiritual Science Research Foundation. I found it to be rather cumbersome and I finally went back to Aum Nama Shiva. It is comforting and seems to be tailored to my spiritual needs. So


    Mantra is a vehicle of inner peace and it’s NEVER WRONG. Which ever the one you choose is up to you. Certain times when a great Guru gives you Mantra is to propel you further and faster in your spiritual journey. Remember they do not get brown y points for recommendation. It’s same as when you have to travel further you have to take an aeroplane, where as when you have to travel short distance then a car is Ideal. Therefore you should never discard a Mantra when one is given to you. It’s never about whether you can pronounce it or not. It is always about you progression forward.

    By not following the Mantra is same as saying instead of flying to India I will walk it to India. It is you choice in what you do. You will not like my answer but someone has to give you bitter pills Sisterji.

    • Ambaa

      Using the word “wrong” may not have been the best one. However, after 20 years of using the original mantra I was given (not by a realised man but by a cult), I know that I was crawling and limping along, stumbling and struggling with every step.

      The Shiva mantra feels a ton more like flying.

      So this is one of those times when I am trusting my inner Self, the guru in my heart.

      • HARRY

        I understand . 🙂